Sea Balls

Mighty_Emperor

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
Aug 18, 2002
Messages
19,436
Reaction score
153
Points
129
Sea Balls: You Can Only Find Them Here

By C.K. WOLFSON

It was as if Nature was tweaking us, reminding us to take note of both her creative powers and whimsical tendencies, when this past week she turned the beach at Squibnocket into a sandy playing field, littered with as many as a hundred odd-looking, baseball-sized spheres.

It was just the sort of natural mystery that Felix Neck director Gus Ben David appreciates. When Cindy Meisner called him on Tuesday and began to describe her sighting, he exclaimed, "I know exactly what it is - sea balls."

He had been alerted to the phenomenon by Felix Neck program coordinator Rebecca Taylor and her fiancé, Eamonn Solway, who reported seeing the sea balls at Squibnocket earlier this month.

It was about 35 years ago that Mr. Ben David first discovered the presence of the sea balls, the name he coined for the rarely seen cylindrical and round balls of varying sizes - an intricate composition of ocean debris, molded and knotted together by Nature's hand.

When dried they are lighter than tennis balls and fragile to the touch. In his collection Mr. Ben David has one oblong sea ball, approximately 18 inches in diameter. Like handcrafted artifacts, the seaweed, twigs, roots and eroded beach and sea grasses are entwined in a tight weave. Smaller samplings, made primarily of grass, are dense and perfectly round and become buoyant and are carried away by the surf.

It was in the 1970s, after a strong southeaster buffeted the Island that Mr. Ben David headed for Squibnocket and watched as waves carrying the matted debris pounded the base of the cliff face to the left of the parking lot. In the back wash of the wave, the matted threads gradually became churned into balls - a process akin to rolling strands of twine between the palms of one's hands.

Similar to tumbleweeds, but formed with greater precision and much rarer, sea balls seem to require a specific sequence of conditions involving high southeast winds and currents, beach topography, ocean debris and storm conditions.

The mystery that remains is why they form so infrequently, and why the Vineyard is the only place that has reported sightings. Other questions are raised: What, if any, are the indicators, from what distance does the debris collect and do sea balls exist in any other locales?

Mr. Ben David has tried to find answers. In addition to consulting with knowledgeable Vineyarders, he tried unsuccessfully to seek answers from places such as the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Recent calls describing the sea balls to the institute's David Radosh, curator of aquariums, biologist Clyde MacKenzie at NOAA's National Marine Fisheries and Dery Bennett of the American Littoral Society in Sandy Hook, N. J., resulted only in appreciative curiosity. Oceanographer emeritus George Hampson, a biologist for more than 40 years who has done research all over the world, said he's never seen anything that fits the description.

Frank Steimle, another biologist from NOAA's National Marine Fisheries, having viewed a photograph of Mr. Ben David's samples, suggested the balls were composed of clumps of salt marsh grass turf mixed with marsh shrub remains. In his opinion they likely came from an eroding salt marsh.

"One of nature's wonders," declared Mr. Ben David.
http://www.mvgazette.com/features/index.php?story=20040326_sea_balls
 

Mighty_Emperor

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
Aug 18, 2002
Messages
19,436
Reaction score
153
Points
129

mendhak

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
Dec 11, 2003
Messages
161
Reaction score
1
Points
34
I find it intriguing that a sea-ball that size weighs less than a tennis ball.

Nice read, Emp. :)
 

Mr_Seaweedski

Gone But Not Forgotten
(ACCOUNT RETIRED)
Joined
Aug 25, 2002
Messages
173
Reaction score
4
Points
49
Squibnocket, squibnocket, squibnocket, squibnocket, squibnocket, squibnocket, squibnocket, squibnocket,squibnocket, squibnocket, squibnocket, squibnocket, squibnocket,squibnocket, squibnocket, squibnocket, squibnocket, squibnocket,squibnocket, squibnocket, squibnocket, squibnocket, squibnocket, SQUIBNOCKET!!!!:blah:
 

EnolaGaia

I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ...
Staff member
Joined
Jul 19, 2004
Messages
17,555
Reaction score
23,170
Points
309
Location
Out of Bounds
These round agglomerations of marine material are also called whale burps, Neptune balls, fibre balls and Ruppia balls.

nw_sea_ball.jpg

The originally cited (2004) article and photo are MIA. Here's a 2016 article from what appears to be the same - though renamed - publication ...

No Matter the Name, Having a Sea Ball
Nancy Weaver had a ball at Cedar Tree Neck last week.

On a walk along the rocky shoreline, she observed sea balls, a unique and very special beach find. Sea balls are orbs of vegetative (and sometimes synthetic) matter that periodically appear on beaches. Reports of these sphere-shaped spectacles are few and far between.

Sea balls have also been called whale burps, though have nothing to do with the digestive system of that marine mammal. And in fact, they are present in both saltwater and freshwater, having also been found on inland ponds and lake shores.

Ranging in size from a few inches to a more than a foot, sea balls form from a variety of materials and under a certain set of conditions. What gets the ball rolling? They can be natural or not, since the genesis of the balls might be organic or human-made.

In some cases, it is just plant and algae that make up sea balls. In others, however, their heart or center is made up of trash, plastic or other artificial materials. With wind, waves and currents, the balls go round and round and become larger. Their final form can be oval in addition to the more common round variety.

Turns out this is a worldwide phenomenon, with different regions boasting their own varieties of balls.

In our country, variations of balls have been found from coast to coast and along the shores of the Great Lakes. Californians find their balls on lake and marsh shores. These so-called Ruppia balls are made from ditch grass from the genus Ruppia, and can be as big as a watermelon. In Minnesota, surf or beach balls have been found that have included plastics, feathers, fishing line and shell fragments.

In Japan, fuzzy green balls, called marimo, occur. Marimo are made of algae from the genus Cladophora, and are considered a natural treasure. Their image is even found on postage stamps, and a three-day festival celebrates the glorious green globes. Marimo is unique in that the alga is living. To engage in photosynthesis, these bottom-dwelling balls float to the top of the water, with the help of trapped air bubbles, then return to the bottom. Truly a clever adaptation to celebrate.

On Mediterranean shorelines, Neptune balls are the norm. Sea grass from the genus Posidonia are the raw materials and, also, explains the name. These balls have a long history, having been mentioned by Aristotle and Theophrastus, and have been used by Greeks to caulk ships and by Venetians as packing material for their glassware.

And those Neptune balls have not lost their usefulness in modern times. Since they are slow to decay, mold resistant and non-flammable, they have been used for insulation and construction under the trade name NeptuThern.

Down under, in Australia, fibre balls are the local variety and result from tapeweed, a vascular plant found offshore in seagrass beds. And up north in Iceland, ball muck may be found.

While it may be distressing to think that on our own shores balls may be forming around discarded refuse, many are still organic marine marvels, as Nancy Weaver’s find shows. It’s wonderful to consider how Mother Nature provides for free everything we need to enjoy a day at the beach, including the beach balls.
SOURCE: https://vineyardgazette.com/news/2016/03/09/no-matter-name-having-sea-ball
 
Top